For the Iceland Symphony Orchestra premiere of Skin In alongside Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir and Bjarni Frímann Bjarnason talk about the respective pieces


Berkshire Fine Arts - International Contemporary Ensemble: 12th Annual Appearance at Mostly Mozart

The New Yorker - Goings on About Town

“…features music by Ashley Fure and Anna Thorvaldsdottir, fêted composers whose reputations ICE helped to burnish, and by Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir, a fast-rising Icelander whose elemental style suits her to this company.”-Steve Smith

Jill Steinberg for the National Sawdust Log

“Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir’s Tail, Lathed rounded out the program, incorporating visual elements through a handful of vintage light bulbs surrounding the ensemble. As the overhead lights in the room went out, a blustery soundscape set in, becoming increasingly rumbly without entirely eclipsing solo instruments that slowly emerged in time with the flickering of an individual light bulb. The resulting bleak expanse was penetrated with outbursts of arresting light and sound, until the work came to an abrupt ending.”

-on the National Sawdust Ensemble premiere of Tail, Lathed, June 2019

Jónas Sen for Fréttablaðið

“Miklu betra var Protean Lair eftir Bergrúnu Snæbjörnsdóttur, örverk sem tók bara mínútu í flutningi. Það byrjaði með kaótískum látum en fljótega runnu allar raddirnar saman og út varð tónrænn leysigeisli. “

“Much better was Protean Lair by Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir, a micro-work which only took one minute in performance. It started with chaotic clamor but soon all voices merged together to create a sonic laserbeam.”

-on “Protean Lair” performed by Elja Chamber Orchestra, March 2019

Jessica Peng for The Reykjavík Grapevine

On the second day, the first piece I saw was called “Areolae Undant” by Icelandic composer and performer Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir. Six instrumentalists were positioned in a circle in Silfurberg, with Bergrún standing in the center. The piece was somewhat centered around the interactive lights, which were beautiful. The audience were sitting around the circle, which made it seem like some kind of ritual.

-on "Areolae Undant" at Sigur Rós’s Norður og Niður Festival, December 2017

Michael Rebhahn for Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, vol. 6/2016.

"...while at the same time jarring and poetic composition Drive Theory of Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir..."

-on "Drive Theory" premiered by Scenatet, Curious Chamber Players and Ensemble Adapter at NMD, October 2016

Robert Barry for The Wire

“A circle of light appears in the middle of the floor with a single white dot spinning in perpetual orbit. A woodwind quartet stands around it. As the dot passes them by they play a note - long if the dot spins slowly, short if it rushes past at speed. It is simplicity itself. But then a second ring is added with its own dot, asynchronous with the first. And then a third ring. Add to that the position of the audience, surrounding the four winds, with a further outer ring of brass around the audience, intoning long, langorous chords, and you get a work capable of bewitching effects, even as its means remain perfectly transparent.” 

Andrew Mellor for Seismograf

-If those four works cumulatively adjusted the ears, others at Only Connect suggested we call upon our eyes to listen more attentively. Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir’s Esoteric Mass projects its score of dots and circles onto the floor of a blacked-out space. Wind instruments from the Oslo Philharmonic played according to the movements of dots around concentric circles, seemingly emitting a note each time the dot passed the same point on the circle (extra circles appeared and sometimes the circles themselves were momentarily stretched or flattened, each ‘phasing’ the discourse). But whether or not we could see the notation, and it was a refreshing experience to do so, the methodology gave Snæbjörnsdóttir’s piece its own biology – its own heartbeat. As an overarching concept – letting your audience in on all those score-bound secrets – it has potential. But the byproduct is pretty good music.

-on "Esoteric Mass" performed by the Oslo Philharmonic at Tectonics/Only Connect Festival, May 2016

Lauri Supponen for Mustekala

Bergrún Snaebjörnsdóttir’s Instrinsic Rift (2016) was presented in an almost candle-light setting, which was very complimentary of the settled and transparent sustains from the two instruments. The electronic part was extremely shy, barely present, which was a tasteful solution giving ample room for the performers to dwell in carefully mixing their sound-colours. Only at the end did it create a slight swell, a slight wedge in between the two.

-on "Intrinsic Rift" performed by Shasta Ellenbogen and Yngvild Vivja Skaarud at Dark Music Days, January 2016

Graham Mathwin for Sensible Perth

"...its subtlety, and yet its careful use of theatrical language, was its great success."

-on "2 víti" performed by Decibel at PICA performance space September 2015

Davíð Roach for The Reykjavík Grapevine

"Grísalappalísa diversified their sound on their second album, as heard on "Flýja" ("Escape"), a dark ballad that's equal parts Lou Reed, Serge Gainsbourg and Bob Dylan. The string arrangement is exceptional, too."

-on string arrangements on the album Rökrétt Framhald by Grísalappalísa

Bob Cluness for The Reykjavík Grapevine

-The performances from Icelandic composers were a mixed bag. On the plus side, Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir's “Esoteric Mass For Winds” in Norðurljós was far and away the best thing I’ve heard yet from the S.L.A.T.U.R music collective. A group of woodwind instruments stood around a projection of moving dots around circles (similar to the models of electrons in an atom), playing notes determined by the speed the dot passed each musician. It was a concept so simple a child could grasp it, but the end result was playful, melodic and imaginative. 

Jónas Sen for Fréttablaðið

"Þar var næst á dagskrá Esoteric Mass eftir Bergrúnu Snæbjörnsdóttur. Tónlistin hennar byggðist á því að blásturshljóðfæraleikarar röðuðu sér í hring og spiluðu eftir mynstri sem var á sífelldri hreyfingu. Mynstrinu var varpað á gólfið. Fyrst heyrði maður aðallega endurtekna tóna, varfærnislega spilaða. En svo óx verkið upp í hápunkt sem var skemmtilega ærslafenginn og kaótískur. Hann samsvaraði sér prýðilega við hógvært upphafið og endinn. Þetta voru flottar andstæður." - Jónas Sen

"Next on the agenda was Esoteric Mass by Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir. Her music was built on the concept of wind performers gathered around in a circle formation, performing by a pattern which was in constant motion. This pattern was projected on the floor. First one could hear mostly repeated tones, carefully produced. But then the piece grew into a climax which was animated, high-spirited and chaotic. It corresponded very well with the humble beginnings and end. The contrast was great." 

-on "Esoteric Mass" premiered by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra at Tectonics Festival, April 2014